Urgent repairs to City Hall, including its ailing roof, are set to cost Bradford Council £2.1 million this year.
Scaffolding is expected to be up around the Grade I listed Gothic landmark for the foreseeable future, as the third of four phases of renovation gets under way.
Opposition parties yesterday voiced concern at the size of the repairs bill, but the Labour-led authority defended its spending on the building, saying previous administrations had neglected it and stored up problems that the current leaders were now having to deal with.
The next phase will finish off the roof repairs, this time working on the side of the building fronting Centenary Square.
It will also repair the ornate building’s facade, which has “considerable structural damage”, according to a new report.
Councillor Andrew Thornton, executive member for the environment, oversees improvements to the Council’s property portfolio.
He said: “We started on one side and we are working our way around the building. It’s a big job and it’s made more difficult by the nature of City Hall and the fact that it is listed, so we have to maintain it in the appropriate way.
“I have to say, that hasn’t always happened in the past. It has been sadly neglected and those chickens come home to roost.”
Alan Hall, chairman of Bradford Civic Society, said City Hall was an “architectural gem for the whole of the United Kingdom” and needed to be looked after.
He said: “I’m not saying, ‘Hang the expense’, you have got to get it done as economically as possible.
“But I would say that you can’t afford not to make sure that the building is really up to scratch in every respect, and if repairs need to be done or maintenance needs to be done, then that has got to be done.
“Bradford Council and local businesses are quite rightly trying to attract people into the middle of Bradford. We need public buildings that are of a really good quality.”
The City Hall renovation forms part of the Council’s 10-year Property Programme, which is battling a £90 million repairs backlog across all its buildings.
This year’s spending totals £4.2 million, and also includes improvements to Bolling Hall Museum, the Alhambra Theatre and two crematoria.
Overall, the programme is designed to save more than it spends, as the Council moves out of dozens of buildings and installs energy-saving improvements in others.
But Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, the Council’s Liberal Democrat leader, has called for a full re-think on all spending on the property programme, especially in light of cuts to social care.
She said: “If you look at your own household budget and you are really struggling to find the money to pay for stuff you really need, you don’t spend money on improving the outside of your property.
“That’s what they are doing. They have illuminated City Hall’s clock.
“We are now replacing some of the stonework because some of the statues are cracking, but at the end of the day, things are very hard for people with a disability and they are going to get harder.”
Coun Sunderland also queried the savings brought about by the overall programme, saying selling off Council buildings had raised only £27 million so far, while capital spending on the project totalled more than £29 million.
And the Council’s Conservative leader, Councillor Glen Miller, said he thought the spending on City Hall was excessive, especially as people’s council tax bills had risen.
He said: “Investing another £2.1 million in this building, as much as it’s a very nice building, I sometimes wonder whether we really need to invest that much money.”
Coun Thornton said it was important that City Hall was maintained to an “appropriate standard”, especially as they were closing Bradford Register Office and moving its services, including weddings, into City Hall.
He said: “What Councillor Sunderland is suggesting is the thing that has failed in the past and has seen the backlog maintenance grow to £90 million.”
The investment programme is expected to be approved at a meeting of Bradford Council’s Executive on Tuesday.